How to Right-Click on a Mac

Hand on apple computer mouse
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Are you looking at the mouse that came with your Mac and wondering how to right-click? There does not seem to be any buttons to click, let alone a way to perform a right-click that very useful alternative to a primary-click that generates a context-sensitive menu of alternative actions to perform.

While the Magic Mouse that comes with your Mac may not seem to have any buttons, it actually has a touch-sensitive surface letting you define how to create primary and secondary (right-click) clicks, as well as support for gestures.

Even none Apple mice can be made to generate right-clicks, and if you’re a trackpad fan such as those included with MacBooks, MacBook Pros, and MacBook Airs, you will be glad to know your not left out in the cold and you too can create easy right-click taps to pull up that every useful context-sensitive menu of actions.

Right-Click for Everyone

Let's start off with the simplest way to produce a right-click, using a keyboard modifier to change a primary click on a mouse or trackpad into a secondary or right-click. This trick will work with any pointing device including mice and trackpads.

Position the cursor over the item you wish to right-click on, then press and hold the Control key while you click the keyboard or the trackpad on your MacBook.

The context-sensitive menu will appear. Once the menu is drawn, release the Control key and select the menu item you wish to use.

By the way, the control-click will also work on the Magic Trackpad, a separate stand-alone trackpad you can use with your desktop or MacBook.

Magic Mouse preferences in macOS High Sierra

Set Up Mouse Secondary or Right-Click

Using the Control key is all fine and good, but why bother when the mouse can do the right-click for you, you just need to define the right-click function.

  1. Launch System Preferences by selecting the System Preferences icon in the Dock, or selecting System Preferences from the Apple menu.
  2. Select the Mouse preference pane.
  3. The Mouse preference pane will have different interface depending on the type of mouse being used:

Apple Magic Mouse

  1. Select the Point & Click tab in the preference pane.
  2. Place a checkmark in the item labeled Secondary click.
  3. Just below the Secondary click text is a chevron, click the chevron and select which side of the Magic Mouse will be used for the Secondary click.

Apple Might Mouse or Third Party Mice

Pick either the Left or Right mouse button to be used as the Primary mouse button. The remaining button will be defined as the secondary button used to access the context-sensitive menus.

Basic mouse preferences screenshot

Third Party Mice With Their Own Drivers

Some third-party mice come with their own set of mouse drivers that supersede the Mac's built-in mouse drivers. You don’t have to use the third party drivers, though they sometimes will have additional capabilities. If you decide to use the third party drivers be sure and follow the instructions included for installing and configuring the mouse.

Discover more about using a multi-button mouse with your Mac.

Trackpad Right-Click

  1. Launch System Preferences.
  2. Select the Trackpad preference pane.
  3. Select the Point & Click tab in the Trackpad window.
  4. Place a checkmark in the item labeled Secondary click.
  5. Just below the Secondary click text is a chevron, click the chevron and select one of the options:
  • Click with two fingers
  • Click in bottom right corner.
  • Click in bottom left corner.
Trackpad Preference Pane macOS High Sierra

Performing the Secondary or Right-Click

Now that you have the secondary click function defined, you can bring up the context-sensitive menu by placing the cursor over an item such as a folder in the Finder and clicking by pressing down on the side of the mouse you defined as the secondary click. As soon as the menu appears, release the mouse or button or mouse side. You can then select a menu item by clicking the primary side or button of the mouse.

If you're using a Magic Mouse it works the same way, though there is no actual button visible. Just press the side of the Magic Mouse you defined as the secondary side. For best results press near the top corner of the side, you picked.

The trackpad works similarly to the mouse, though it also supports using a two-finger tap as the right-click function. To use the two-finger tap, use two fingers to click down on the trackpad and keep the fingers on the trackpad till the context-sensitive menu appears.